Reflections on Bradgate Park fieldschool 2015-19

Dr Richard Thomas tells us all about the 5 year project
Reflections on Bradgate Park fieldschool 2015-19

The final day of the Bradgate Park fieldschool 2019

Our archaeological excavations in Bradgate Park over the last four years have shown that people have been coming to landscape for a very long time. We now have evidence for Ice Age hunting (c. 14,500 years ago),  Late Mesolithic hunting (c. 6000-9000 years ago), a middle Iron Age settlement and a medieval hunting lodge.

Bradgate 1
Aerial view of Bradgate House including images of trenches
Our most surprising find, however, has been the discovery of stone buildings pre-dating the brick structures of Bradgate House. While Bradgate House is such an iconic site, very little is known about the standing structure and how it changed over time. It has always been thought that the upstanding remains were the childhood home of Lady Jane Grey (nine days queen of England), but our evidence suggests that it may have looked very different.


Our fifth season of excavations, which have recently concluded, have helped us better understand the changing appearance of Bradgate House. We focused attention on the earlier stone structures that underlie the standing brick buildings. This season’s work have revealed that the stone building was much larger than previously realised, with at least two storeys and an upper floor fireplace and garderobe (toilet). The finds from the floor surfaces indicate that this building was in use during the early 16th century, during the time when Lady Jane Grey was resident, and was probably demolished sometime in the second half of the 16th century. It is possible that the upstanding structures were not built until at least the late 16th when the estate was returned to the Grey family.

Bradgate garderobe
A garderobe (toilet!) for the upper floor of the building

This has been our final season of excavation as a fieldschool at Bradgate Park and the whole team feel incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to excavate and transform our understanding of this iconic landscape. Over the past five years we have provided training to over 500 campus-based and distance learning students and shared our discoveries with thousands of members of the public and school children as part of our outreach programme. It has been a genuine pleasure.

Dr Richard Thomas, Reader in Archaeology

There is an abundance of further information about the excavation seasons on the project web page here if you'd like to know more, and it's worth checking our the project's Facebook page for lots more pictures, finds, and details of each year's excavation seasons.

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